By Anthony Tan in Valkenburg, Netherlands
Not only the finale of the current and past editions of the Amstel Gold Race, Valkenburg has played host to the 1998 world road championships, won by Swiss Oscar Camenzind. This year, this petite community of less than 20 thousand people will also be the finishing town for the third stage of the 93rd Tour de France.
The Netherlands is one of three countries to France's northeast that find themselves part of the sporting world's largest annual sporting event in 2006, the other two being Luxembourg and Belgium. On Tuesday, July 4 and starting in town of Esch-sur-Alzette on the France/Luxembourg border, the peloton head nor'-nor'-west into Belgium after 92 kilometres, passing through the Provinces of Luxembourg and Liege, before entering the Netherlands' Province of Limburg at km 186.
From the town of Hoogcruts (Margraten) just 30.5 kilometres are left to ride, but in the vein of the Amstel Gold finale, the 215.5 kilometre stage will finish atop the Cauberg, and just like it did today, the short but savage climb is likely to create some modest time gaps at the head of general classification, if the prologue in Strasbourg hasn't already done so.